It’s been a bumpy road for Andreas Lilja. The veteran of just under 500 NHL games spent the last five seasons as a depth defenceman with the Red Wings, and then inexplicably turned down a contract with Detroit (reportedly worth $850,000) to test the free agent market – this after missing 97 games thanks to a concussion, and being limited to two points in 31 games after his return.
Things didn’t pan out so well, and Lilja was forced to accept a tryout contract – with the San Jose Sharks, where he had history with head coach (and former Detroit assistant) Todd McLellan. That didn’t work out well either, as the Sharks cut Lilja loose just prior to the start of the season, based on the strong play of their young defencemen.
Now though, Lilja’s found a new home, with the Anaheim Ducks. It’s a no-brainer decision for the Ducks, after Andy Sutton broke his thumb in a fight and left their blue-line short a man. Of course, some would argue the decision was a no-brainer to begin with. Some excerpts from Kent Wilson’s delightfully pointed preseason preview:
As unimpressive as the Ducks forward depth is, their back-end is shallower by a few orders of magnitude. What was once the club’s greatest strength has now become their Achilles heel…
After that motley top four collection [Visnovsky, Lydman, Sutton and Mara], things get even less appealing for Ducks fans: Dany Syvret, Brett Festerling, Sheldon Brookbank, Luca Sbisa and recent first rounder Cam Fowler are all in the mix…
If Visnovsky goes down for any length of time, the Ducks top four will be:
Lydman – Mara
Sutton – Festerling (?)
Not much more needs to be said.
A few games in, the reality of the situation has been even bleaker. 18 year-old Cam Fowler is averaging more than 20:00 per night as the team’s number two defenceman, while Brendan Mikkelson is just under the 20:00 mark as the team’s number four defenceman (fresh off a season which was mostly spent with the Toronto Marlies). Sheldon Brookbank (have fists, will travel) has been asked to chip in as the number five defenceman.
There’s a case to be made that Andreas Lilja is a top-four defenceman on the current roster. Beyond that, it’s easy to wonder how long until another rejected defencemen (Sheldon Souray, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Jay McKee, etc.) joins the heirs to Pronger and Niedermayer in Anaheim.